Eleven Burundians accused of albino killings were arraigned in court Tuesday. Their trial, which takes place at the Ruyigi court in Burundi, has been postponed to May 28. The defendants, who are facing life imprisonment, are accused of trafficking human organs in collaboration with Tanzanian witchdoctors.
For the first time in its history, a Burundian court has arraigned suspected albino killers. The trial, which began Tuesday, has been postponed to May 28 to allow defence witnesses amply prepare for their court appearance. All eleven suspects are men. “I think they killed for money and not because of their beliefs”, Cassim Kazungu, chairman of albinos without borders in Burundi tells Afrik-news.com.
The defendants who could face life in prison do not have anyone representing them at court. Eight of them are accused of having “killed and maimed albinos, starting with a little girl named Violet Harerimana, on September 8, 2008” said the prosecutor, Nicodemus Gahimbare, at the 8 hour long hearing. “This is a breakthrough for the rights of albinos. The fact that the media is present to report on this trial is going to change attitudes. The government is likely to support our cause alongside donors like the European Union and the Embassy of France,” says Cassim Kazungu.
But for now, all the accused have pleaded not guilty to the ritual murders, which took place in the province of Ruyigi between September 2008 and March 2009.
Trafficking in human organs
“I think we have succeeded in dismantling the network responsible for the albinos murders, in fact, no albino has been killed since the arrest of the suspects in March”, the prosecutor told AFP in the courtroom where fifteen albinos, including children, attended the trial.
He, however, acknowledged that the defendants were only middlemen and not sponsors of ritual murders. According to him, those responsible for ritual murders are in Tanzania. The Burundian authorities suspect Tanzanian wizards of using albino human parts for the production of lucky charms.
The practice of ritual murders was not tackled on the first day of the hearing. Observers have concluded that the prosecution’s silence on the subject matter reveals how much of a taboo rituals murders are in both Burundi and Tanzania.